by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 31, 2006
SETTING MY PREFERENCES
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- There's no question our language changed with the advent of the computer. Where our parents had an address and telephone number, we now have an address, telephone number, cell phone number, web address (or, in the vernacular, a dotcom) an e-mail address and a "nick," which is how you're identified for instant messaging.
Thirty years ago, citizen band two-way radios were the rage and along with our CB radio we had to register our "handle." My handle was "Rag Mop," and if that gives you a visual, well, you're probably right.
All of those identifiers are something you set for yourself according to how you see yourself or how you want to present yourself. We recently went all wireless at home and the final selling point was that we could keep our own phone number. Although we didn't choose it originally, we've had that number with Ma Bell since we arrived in Georgia. It's our number.
Naturally we took Verizon's offer and Bell Telephone had to let us go. They should have tried harder to keep us; with Bell we had five extensions in the house, now we have one miniscule cell phone with that number. Only one instrument to a phone number! When one of us leaves the house, the other says with a touch of panic, "You're not taking the phone with you, are you?" (A shouted aside to Verizon: "Can you hear me now?")
My computer came with factory settings, the default settings, and as a rule they suit most people. But, I can change those settings to suit my preferences and make them my default settings, overriding those set by the manufacturer. Also, I can set different preferences within a document to suit my needs at the time.
As I was going changing my settings the other day, I started thinking we should be able to set our preferences in life as well as in computers. Hey, wait a minute, I thought, I do have preferences set in my mind. I guess that's what people observe when they say "she's set in her ways."
I'm still a shoes-match-the-purse kind of gal. That's a preference that borders on being a firmly established rule - as it indeed it once was. I would never wear shoes lighter than my hem. If I'm wearing purple, my lipstick must reflect that hue and not be bright red. Of course, the opposite applies. And, lipstick and nail polish must match. That's a given.
I asked around. I didn't have to define what I meant to those queried, I just asked if they had preferences.
"I'll only use Tide, no generics," said Jorie.
"I prefer beer to whiskey and non-fiction to fiction," added Tom.
"I prefer woods to a meadow but I love to discover a meadow while walking in the woods," continued Tom, on a roll now. "I prefer (Beatle) John's songs to Paul's and I prefer back roads to highways."
"I prefer Paul's songs," added Nancy, with a "Me, too" from Kerry.
I had been referring to rules that are part of our being individuals but these preferences were offered so promptly and resolutely, that who am I to question their opinions?
These preferences become our very own since there's no guarantee you can instill them in your children. My mother raised all of us wearing a house dress and high heels. In her generation, you wore high heels from age 16, every day, all the time. I raised mine in jeans and sneakers. That preference was mine and that of all my friends as we broke away from our mothers' molds.
My daughters broke away from my preferences with a little help from Liz Claiborne and Madonna. Claiborne's purse circa 1980 was a runaway best seller. It was fashioned in miniscule checks in tan and taupe and cost a fortune when you consider it was for high school girls. I wouldn't buy one for them nor for myself.
They worked after school. It was that important to them. It was carried with every outfit from dress to casual regardless of what shoes were being worn. If you didn't have one you were either without style or without money. And so, preferences were set. Claiborne's purse was the new "neutral." It was something that goes with anything and my tsk tsk said it all.
Madonna's influence was felt the minute she walked into a resale shop and put on this and that until she looked in the mirror and saw that the myriad gloves, belts, socks, high heels, long shirts, short jackets, and oversized beaded purses, when taken together, created an image, her image. Her preferences. And they became the preferences of Madonna Wannabe's around the globe.
I prefer having sons but raising girls. I prefer dogs to cats; dogs are companionable, cats just haughtily grace my world with their presence. There is no question but they have their own preferential agenda and my preferences don't even come close to being theirs. Although, in defense of cats and to have our preferences merge, I prefer a house free of rodents and the cat prefers to be the one to make that happen.
Voices are still piping up in the background here with such preferences as:
"I prefer Scott to Charmin."
"I prefer red wine to white."
"I prefer Crest to Colgate."
"I prefer vodka to gin."
"I prefer Pepsi to Coke."
"I prefer golf to tennis."
"I prefer swing to classical."
"I prefer Microsoft to Mac."
Interesting. This round of answers to their personally-set preferences seem to echo with an either/or aspect. If posed as questions, such as "Do you like Crest or Colgate?" would they say "It doesn't matter?" I doubt it. These preferences are as firmly set as each new default I will set in my computer.
There is a difference, though. The computer can be easily restored to factory settings. It can have the equivalent of a clean slate. I can reset the preferences and do it my way. In my real world, I did do it my way with no possibility of deleting passages that don't fit the preferred pattern. There is no possibility of going into my personal gallery of events and just erasing, or undoing, what I don't care to see.
Somehow I've come through life to date with few crashes, a lot or a little help from my friends, nothing at all I'd care to delete from the files I've stored and satisfied that my preferences will carry me through with few regrets.
However, this is the week to acknowledge publicly one very important touch of remorse. I regret I never became a sports fan. We're a Pittsburgh Steeler family and I'll be one lonely trooper next Sunday when the Steelers beat the Seahawks. I have only one thing to say: GO STEELERS.
Visit AR Correspondent Constance Daley at www.skylinetoshoreline.com.